"Burma: Reforms Yet to Reach Kachin State", ICRtoP
Burma: Reforms Yet to Reach Kachin State
Human Rights Watch
20 March 2012
The Burmese government has committed serious abuses and blocked humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of displaced civilians since June 2011, in fighting in Burma’s northern Kachin State, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Some 75,000 ethnic Kachin displaced persons and refugees are in desperate need of food, medicine, and shelter, Human Rights Watch said.
The 83-page report, “‘Untold Miseries’: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State,” describes how the Burmese army has attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties, and forced the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. The army has also used antipersonnel mines and conscripted forced laborers, including children as young as 14, on the front lines. (…)
The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) need to take effective measures to end abuses by their forces, ensure humanitarian access, and permit an independent international mechanism to investigate abuses by all sides, Human Rights Watch said.
Renewed Burmese army operations against the Kachin Independence Army began in June in a contested area surrounding a Chinese-led hydropower dam, ending 17 years of ceasefire between the government and Kachin insurgents.
Displaced Kachin civilians described being forced to work on the front lines for the Burmese army, enduring torture, and being fired upon by soldiers. Burmese troops have deliberately and indiscriminately attacked Kachin civilians with small arms and mortars, Human Rights Watch found. Human Rights Watch also found evidence of rape by Burmese soldiers. (…)
The Kachin Independence Army has also been involved in serious abuses, including using child soldiers and antipersonnel mines, Human Rights Watch said. Both sides’ use of mines, which do not discriminate between combatants and civilians, will complicate the safe return of displaced civilians to their villages when hostilities cease. (…)
Human Rights Watch called on the Burmese government to ask the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Burma with a standard protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate.
Burma’s newly created National Human Rights Commission has not played an effective role in monitoring abuses in Kachin State, Human Rights Watch said. In February 2012, the commission’s chairman, Win Mra, announced that the commission would not investigate allegations of abuses in the country’s ethnic armed conflict areas due to the government’s efforts to negotiate ceasefires. (…)
Of the 75,000 Kachin civilians displaced since June, at least 45,000 have sought refuge in 30 camps for internally displaced persons in Kachin Independence Army-controlled territory along the Burma-China border. The Burmese government has only granted UN agencies access to this area once, in December. Even then, UN agencies were not able to visit several areas where tens of thousands of displaced persons reside. In areas it controls, the Kachin Independence Army and networks of local Kachin organizations have tried to meet growing humanitarian needs, but international support for civilian-relief organizations operating out of Kachin State has been sporadic and inadequate.
Humanitarian needs of displaced persons in Kachin State include food and other necessities, such as medicine, blankets, warm clothing, firewood and fuel, and adequate shelter.
The worsening situation in Kachin State contrasts starkly with hopeful human rights developments in lowland Burma in recent months, including the release of prominent political prisoners, a spate of legal reforms, and greater media freedom. In by-elections scheduled for April 1, the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will run for a seat in the national parliament. (…)